Malaysian Curry Laksa...well, sort of. Today, I was brave. Really brave. I made curry laksa...well, sort of. More on the "sort of "... later. To be honest, it took me several days to decide if I should go ahead and make this dish or not. I'm not keen on lemongrass... probably because I've had a few restaurant dishes where the lemongrass was really overpowering. On the other hand, my mom would make us lemongrass tea when I was young, and I loved it. I don't exactly remember how we had this fresh lemongrass plant growing in our backyard, but lemongrass was something I grew up with... and only in tea. We always had tea...every morning. I am not sure why I never cared for lemongrass in savory dishes... but I just never used it in the dishes I made. And because this particular dish used quite a bit of it, I was hesitant. But it wasn't just the lemongrass, it was also the fish sauce. I don't cook with fish sauce...and I've never bought it before. Ever. Would I take the chance now? This dish was really out of my comfort zone...
I had heard about this dish before...being a popular dish in Asia(more so in Malaysia and Singapore).... had heard how popular laksa is in Australia.... and then I saw a recent post on use real butter featuring curry laksa. I quickly glanced over the ingredients and knew I probably wouldn't make it. But the amazing photos made the dish look so appealing... so worth trying! I looked over it once more... and then bookmarked it:). I thought about it for a few days, and finally decided to make it.
We don't really get a chance to try different cuisines here in Montana. We're actually pretty limited. I find myself not wanting to miss out on dishes that others may have access to in bigger cities... I want to experience as many different dishes as I possibly can. Even if this means having me make the dish at home.... at least this way I don't feel left out:). But I'm all for making it at home, because this way I can broaden and improve my cooking skills... and that's always, always a plus.
It took me a few days to get all the ingredients as I couldn't find fresh lemongrass anywhere. Knew the local natural food store sometimes carries it, but they didn't have any when I was there. I started thinking about using dried lemongrass.... But a few days later, I went back to get some spices and found they had brought in a small package of fresh lemongrass. I quickly grabbed it. Finally. Now, I had most of the ingredients needed to make the dish. And here comes the "sort of" part...
I was missing a very important ingredient, the tofu puffs, which are a main part of the laksa. There's absolutely no way I would find such an ingredient here in Montana, at least in the area I live. I suppose I could have made a homemade version, but since I most never buy tofu, I decided to skip it, and used some fresh shitake mushrooms instead... to sort of compensate for the lack of tofu puffs. The soup I made is a curry laksa...sort of....without the tofu puffs. I am, however, listing the tofu puffs in the recipe... for those of you who have access to them and want to use it.
The soup was delicious, and my husband and I really enjoyed it! A new experience for both of us, and I am so glad I tried it! I did end up making half the soup quantity... but made the full amount of curry paste. Stored the other half of the paste in the freezer for another time. The recipe I am posting is for the whole amount. Oh, and the fish sauce wasn't bad at all... it blends very well with all the other ingredients. Hope you enjoy...
Note: A little bit of information on laksa can be found... HERE.
Tip: You can make the curry paste and soup base in advance( minus any of the toppings and tofu puffs/mushrooms(if using). Just re-heat the soup on a later day and simply add the rest of the toppings...add tofu puffs/mushrooms while reheating. I had leftovers and the soup was delicious the next day as well.
Feel free to make it with only chicken, or only seafood...
The soup isn't really that spicy ...even with 10 chiles! But if you like, you can definitely cut down the amount of chiles.
10 dried chilies(or about 5 fresh red jalapenos), or to taste
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks lemongrass
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 inch of ginger(or galangal)
1 tablespoon dried tumeric powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup of oil for frying
2 cups coconut milk, reserve ½ cup of cream for garnish, if you like
4 cups of chicken broth, preferably homemade
1 cup of water
Salt to taste
12 fried tofu puffs( or fresh shitake mushrooms, as many as you like)
8 oz cooked shrimp, or however many you like
1-2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded in 1/2 inch pieces
6 oz egg noodles, optional( I didn't use)
6 oz rice vermicelli
2 hard boiled eggs, halved or quartered
1 cup mung bean sprouts, or so
Cilantro, for garnish
Make the Curry Paste:
1. Grind together spice paste ingredients in a food processor until smooth....you may need stop the processor and scrape the mixture in between the processing. You want to get it as smooth as you can. This can take several minutes. Set aside.
1. Season chicken breast with salt and steam until cooked( I just boiled mine). Tear the chicken into ½ inch thick slices.
2. Blanch shrimp. I like to brine my shrimp for 20 minutes or so....adding about 1 TBS kosher salt to 2 cups of water(or so). I remove the shrimp from the brine and blanch them until pink. Makes the shrimp nice and plump...as well as tasty.
Cook the Noodles/Egg:
1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt. Remove from heat and blanch the rice vermicelli until tender.
2. Do the same with the egg noodles, if using( just use the same water you cooked the rice noodles in). Reserve.
3. Boil egg, peel, cut, and set aside.
Make Laksa Soup Base:
1. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the spice paste. Cook and stir constantly... about 8 to 10 minutes. The oil will sort of separate from the spice paste and get darker in color. Adjust heat so as not to burn.
2. Lower the heat and add coconut milk, tofu puffs( or mushrooms in my case), chicken stock and water. Bring to a slow simmer, stirring constantly. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Season with salt ... to taste.